When the first plots were sold in the new Fish Hoek Township, in April 1918, the area was administered by the Divisional council of the Cape. A Vigilance Committee was formed to keep an eye on affairs in the new village. This was a voluntary organisation with no legal standing, although they probably had quite a lot of influence amongst the residents. It was not until 1921 that a group of residents held a meeting at which it was decided that a Local Board should be formed to control the village. A Board consisting of three members was elected, L. Jacobson, E. W. Rice and F. H. Daniels.
At their first meeting, held at Dynevor, the home of E. W. Rice, in September of that year L. Jacobson was elected as the Chairman. Working behind the scenes was Reg Kemp, a well known estate agent and the owner of several properties, who organised the Ratepayers Association and compiled a voters list. He never held office, either in the Ratepayers Association or on the Board, but campaigned vigorously for residents rights, often crossing swords with those in authority.
It was proposed to levy a rate for general purposes, this was to be one halfpenny in the pound, to be payable in November of each year. In the meantime the Administrator of the Cape was asked to sanction a bank overdraft of £200 for necessary expenditure until the rates were paid. This Board had to start from scratch in raising money and providing services for the residents. At the first meeting they also discussed the provision of a post office, the sanitary arrangements water supply and the naming of the streets.
By 1927, with the increased size of the village and its facilities, it was given added status as a Village Management Board and H. S. Jager was elected as the first Chairman of the new Board. The village continued to grow and develop. The annual revenue of £ 1 625 in 1921 had grown to £12 000 by 1933 and the property valuation had risen from £64 000 to £436 000 in the same period. The Village Management Board moved into their new offices in the Main Road, having previously been housed in a shop building in Beach Road, the water supply was improved, electricity installed and the sewerage scheme started.
The roads were upgraded and the turning into Hillside Road from Simonstown Road was improved. On this corner stands the large rock known as “Sewe Mans Klip” where, according to tradition, the rock had rolled down on an early roadmaking gang and had killed seven of them. The story goes that it was impossible to move the rock and the bodies are still lying underneath it.
In 1929 a group of residents, dissatisfied with the way the Village Management Board was running the village, proposed that the Cape Town City Council be approached with regard to Fish Hoek being amalgamated into the City Council area. They seemed to think that the incorporation of another coastal resort would be welcomed. A list of twenty points in favour was compiled and presented by the leader of the group.
1. It is the considered opinion among influential people that the time has arrived for someone other than the Village Management Board to take Fish Hoek over.
2. That the Board has outlived its usefulness and that Fish Hoek has grown too large for the Board to manage satisfactorily.
3. That he felt sure the Fish Hoek Ratepayers would agree to amalgamation.
4. That the City Council would then appoint a Committee to discuss terms of the union with Fish Hoek authorities.
5. That he was satisfied that Cape Town would receive the application and consider it favourably.
6. That Cape Town should remember there is an asset in Fish Hoek that would counter balance most of the objections to taking it into the Cape Town area.
7. That favourite places like St James and other False Bay resorts were crowded out and had reached the zenith of their development.
8. That Fish Hoek is not progressing as it should.
9. That the primitive sanitary system greatly retarded the growth of the village as a holiday resort and was a continual inconvenience.
10. That the Board has neither the funds nor the officers to carry out things satisfactorily.
11. That the ordinary rate is 2d but that this was the same or higher than the 4.8d rate in Cape Town taking all things into consideration.
12. That the Board bought water at 2/6 and sold it at 4/6.
13. That from 1918 Fish Hoek had grown enormously (from no valuation then to £4000 now.)
14. That the sanitary arrangements were worse than Cape Town 20 years ago.
15. That bath water flowed down the streets.
16. That there was no drainage for storm water.
17. That it was only a question of time before there would be a dangerous epidemic.
18. That there was only one way to improve these conditions for the Cape Town Corporation to take Fish Hoek over.
19. That two Councillors would represent Fish Hoek adequately when it joins Cape Town.
20. That the movement for amalgamation appears to be too deeply rooted to allow of its being rejected.
At the next meeting of the Ratepayers Association the Chairman of the Village Management Board addressed the members saying “I appeal for Fair Play. Is it fair play on the part of the Executive of the Ratepayers Association to have caused assertions to be made in the Public Press damaging, or at least calculated to damage, the interest of our Township and its Board in particular.” “It has been asserted that that the Board has outlived its usefulness and that Fish Hoek has grown too large for the Board to manage satisfactorily. What are the specific details or what can be the charge against the Board, what justification is there for such a sweeping assertion?
In the first place there is no specific charge and therefore it must be argued that your Board has not outlived its usefulness neither has Fish Hoek grown too large to manage satisfactorily, except in so far that it cannot manage the unruly tongues of unruly residents, who rush into the affairs of management of which they have neither sufficient knowledge concerning the facts, not enough care to be sure of any facts before rushing into the glaring light of publicity.”
In the course of a long speech he also remarked, “With reference to bath water and storm water, what damage can there be if only bath water flows down the streets. If those present knew the number of cases where rice and other debris have been seen in the gutters and that the Board has had to threaten residents, it would be surprising.”
A public meeting was held on 10 June 1929 to discuss unification with Cape Town “and other matters” and the Village Management Board was informed that a resolution had been adopted “by a crowded meeting with one dissentient” that unification should be investigated. The Board decided that they needed to consult with the Administrator of the Cape as if the Village Management Board was to be abolished his permission would be required. However, the reply was that they should first discuss the situation with the Cape Town City Council.
So, probably reluctantly, the Board set up a meeting. Present were the Mayor of Cape Town, the Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee and six other Councillors, the Chairman and Secretary of the Board and four members, one of whom, Mrs H. Downes, was the only woman present. The meeting did not appear to go very favourably. The first item was representation on the Council but it was pointed out that the valuation of properties in Fish Hoek did not justify equal representation with any of the other wards of Cape Town. The Board replied that the residents did not wish to be part of the Muizenberg-Kalk Bay ward. There was no water borne sewage system but they hoped that “should unification result, this problem would receive immediate attention”, the roads and water supply also need attention.
The Village Management Board waited for a year to hear the result of this meeting and eventually, in September 1930, wrote to the Town Clerk of Cape Town asking for a reply on the matter. Still there was no reply so they wrote again in October 1930. The Town Clerk replied that on a definite proposal from the Village Management Board, which could form the basis of further negotiations, they would resume talks. A new set of proposals was drawn up which included representation as a separate ward, the provision of a water borne sewage system, a storm water scheme, the making of additional roads, the provision of more street lighting and that the Cape Town City Council take over the Board’s existing loans. The reply came a month later and was short and to the point. “The matter was considered but the proposals do not forma basis for negotiation.” The City Council would have gained nothing but expenses, but perhaps the Board had been very clever in insuring that the unification did not take place, if it had the development of Fish Hoek might have been very different.
In December 1939 the Provincial Secretary wrote to the Board to say “It is considered that the time has arrived for the status of the Fish Hoek Village Management Board to be raised to that of a Municipality.” There was much discussion of the matter and it was not until 30 August 1940 that the Board resolved that Fish Hoek should become a Municipality. An election was held on 20 November 1940 when six Councillors were elected, H. S. Jager, who had been the first, and only, Chairman of the Village Management Board was elected as Mayor. The Cape Town City Council presented the new Municipality with a Mayoral Chair and a Mayor’s Chain was bought. This chain is unusual in that it consists of linked silver plates on a velvet ribbon and the name of every Mayor of Fish Hoek is inscribed on it.
Many prominent residents served on the Council and in 1959 the Council decided to honour H. S. Jager, who served for thirty-two years on the Village Management Board and Town Council, by making him the first Freeman of Fish Hoek. A local calligrapher, “Robbie” Roberts produced a special book in which the photograph and particulars of Freemen were recorded. The Freedom of Fish Hoek was awarded to Herman Scott Jager on 27 October 1959 and he is recorded as having introduced the Fish Hoek Town Planning Scheme and being the first President and a life member of the Fish Hoek Bowling Club. He was also the joint founder, with Dr Eric Noble, of the South African Archaeological Society and was a member of the Council of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. As well as being represented in the Freedom Book each Freeman was presented with an illuminated scroll in a wooden box.
On 16 September 1974 Charles de Stadler became a Freeman of Fish Hoek. After service in both world wars he was a founder member of the Fish Hoek MOTH Shellhole. As a Councillor for fourteen years, he was Deputy Mayor of Fish Hoek for three years and Mayor for four years. He was an executive member of the Fish Hoek Music Society, and a founder member of the Fish Hoek Association Football Club of which he was Chairman for forty years, also a founder member of the Fish Hoek Central Sports Association and the Chairman for two years.
The third Freeman was Alleyne Yeld, who was awarded the Freedom of Fish Hoek on 24 November 1988. After a distinguished Public Service career he was a Town Councillor for eighteen years, Deputy Mayor for six years and Mayor for three years. He served as a Justice of the Peace in the Simon’s Town district and was a founder member of the Fish Hoek Association for the Welfare of the Elderly and an Elder of the Dutch reformed Church in Fish Hoek.
The last man to be awarded the Freedom of Fish Hoek before the Municipality disappeared was Hilary Langley. After serving as a pilot in the South African Airforce during World War 2 he married a Fish Hoek girl and worked for the Cape Town City Council, retiring as City Property Manager, making his retirement final after a further five years with a property company. He was a Councillor for 22 years and mayor for two years. During this time he was Chairman of the Fish Hoek Primary and High School Committees and a member of the Cape School Board for twenty three years, a Councillor on the Cape Divisional Council for eight years and a Regional Services Councillor for four years. He was convenor of a special committee appointed by the Fish Hoek Town Council which led to the formation of the Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association who were responsible for the establishment of the Fish Hoek Valley Museum.
A special freedom award was made in 1987. In the days when young South African white men had to do two years national service they were then liable for further service, being called up for a month a year for two years and three months in the third year for a period of twelve years. A special naval unit was formed in Simon’s Town to accommodate the young men on temporary call up and named SAS Yselstein after the first ship to be recorded in the bay. As many of them were from Fish Hoek the unit was awarded the freedom of the town. This entitled them to march through the streets of the town on all ceremonial occasions with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying. On 28 November 1987 this right was exercised when the Mayor of Fish Hoek, Councillor John Florence, presented to the unit, under the command of Cdr C. T. Harris, a scroll awarding them the freedom of the town. Although national service is a thing of the past, SAS Yselstein continued to exist as volunteer unit, staffed by those who had previously served in the South African Navy, but all reserve units are to be decommissioned and the reservists used in various naval posts. Those who served in SAS Yselstein will continue to keep in contact through the Yselstein Association but another piece of local history will disappear.
With South Africa’s new Constitution in 1994 came a new thinking on local government. All the small municipalities were swept away, Fish Hoek lost its independence and became part of a Fish Hoek/Kommetjie/ Noordhoek Transitional Municipal Sub-structure until local government elections were held in 1995 and the South Peninsula Municipality was formed, stretching from Wynberg to Cape Point. At the elections in 2000 the South Peninsula Municipality was incorporated into the Unicity of Cape Town. Seventy years later the residents who had asked for unification with Cape Town had finally got their way, although none of them lived to see it happen!
SAS Yselstein was awarded the Freedom of Fish Hoek on 28 November 1987